Sex Pistols mini-series launched on Disney+ this summer


Canon Europe has revealed the technology behind the filming of Danny Boyle’s Sex Pistols miniseries, Pistol.

Based on Lonely Boy, the memoirs of Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones, Pistol launched on Disney+ on 31 May. It focuses on the band’s rise to fame and subsequent notoriety, and stars Maisie Williams and Toby Williams. Boyle directed, with Anthony Dod Mantle (127 Hours, Rush, The Last King of Scotland) as cinematographer. 

A combination of modern and vintage Canon cameras and lenses, including 18 x EOS R5 mirrorless cameras, the EOS-1D X Mark III, K35 cinema lenses and Canon XL1 and XL H1 camcorders were used to take viewers back to the band’s formative years, alongside a ARRI Alexa Mini LF.


Boyle explained: “With this series, I wanted to capture the limitless energy from the punk community and the furnace of potential that was the Sex Pistols. I’m very visual and with Anthony, we constantly talked about how we were going to manifest this. We used a mixture of archive footage, an old Canon XL H1 camcorder, a high-res EOS-1D X Mark III and bullet time, to create this incredible mixture of different textures and colours that take people back to 1975, but make it feel like it’s happening now. We tried to make the experience really immersive, through the intensity of what you’re seeing and hearing in an old school way - it’s a flat screen, but you do everything you can to not make it flat.”


Mantle approached Canon during pre-production to help create two, multi-camera solutions that would enable him to achieve a bullet time effect to manipulate time, with the support from ARRI Rental (guided by Russell Allen) and UK-based technical production studio The Flash Pack. The first comprised of 12 EOS R5 cameras mounted vertically to make it as compact as possible, and the other, an ultra-portable six camera system Mantle could hold and be mobile with.

These multi-camera sequences were captured in 4K video, rotated, cropped to 4:3 aspect ratio and manipulated in post-production to slow down time during action scenes. 


Mantle commented: “When it was decided we would be mixing formats and capturing bullet time, I knew we needed different cameras and concepts – which is where Canon came in. Danny likes to keep the momentum up, so I knew I couldn’t spend time getting into extremely complicated rigs and that’s when we came up with the 12 and 6 camera rigs, made up of EOS R5s that I could carry around and even sit in the back of the car with. There’s absolutely no way I could have done that without Canon.”

The team also had to link the 70s archive footage with the new footage of the cast. Mantle revealed: “I had the EOS-1D X Mark III, which is an incredible piece of technology, which I used to shoot 20 fps - a slight adjustment to our perception of reality. The quality of the image and lenses enabled me to create incredibly visceral, powerful images, while dancing around the actors.


“It started as a tool to shoot the concerts, but it became something I shot with in every single location, whether it was a prop, a sign or a pair of underpants in Vivian Westwood’s boutique. It’s become a very important montage element of the film that was so enjoyable for Danny and me.”

It wasn’t just modern tech on hand, Mantle also used Canon’s XL1 and XL H1 MiniDV camcorder - which he has owned for 20 years - and used lenses from the 1970s themselves, Canon’s K35 lens series paired with the ARRI Alexa Mini LF.